Watch the video above.
The video discusses the effort and challenge that France is encountering in creating a replica of the Chauvet caves for visitors. The reporters acknowledges that while the experience isn’t authentic, that the hope is the new space could still possibly evoke a sense of wonder.
1. What kind of “wonder” is evoked by these cave paintings?
2. If you were in the space, how would you feel or interpret these images made by prehistoric people?
3. Would it matter to you, if the space you were exploring was a replica? How does this connect back to our previous discussion of the concept of “aura”?
Chapter 3.1 The Prehistoric and Ancient MediterraneanThis chapter presents the earliest art made in the Mediterranean, a region encompassing southern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa. Prehistoric art is defined as art made prior to the advent of writing. The art of several of the most significant ancient cultures, in which vibrant cities were built and great technological advancements were made, is discussed and compared. Much ancient art was commissioned by powerful individuals who demonstrated their authority and prestige with large palace complexes, sculptures, and public architectural projects. Artworks from this period also reflect the importance of survival, and the religious beliefs of people in the early Mediterranean.Prehistoric Art in Europe and the MediterraneanWe explore the characteristic subject matter of the art of this region’s prehistoric cultures, from around 40,000 to 3,500 years ago. Animals were commonly depicted, and fertility figures were also prominent. We consider art in various media and from some of the major archaeological sites for this period. Our survey includes the earliest cave paintings, from Spain; fertility figures; minimalist sculpture from the Cycladic islands of the Aegean; painting from the sixth millennium BCE in Turkey; and sumptuous frescoes from the lavish palace civilization of Minoan Crete.Mesopotamia: The Cradle of CivilizationStudents are introduced to several of the cultures that competed for control of the region of Mesopotamia, from the founding of the first urban centers some 6,000 years ago to the height of the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century bce. These highly sophisticated ancient civilizations were responsible for such developments as the earliest known writing. We explore the art of Mesopotamia through a series of objects that encapsulate the distinctive styles of the cultures that dominated the region: the rich decorative inlay of the Sumerian Standard of Ur and bull lyre; the divine significance of a bronze cast head of an Akkadian ruler; the palace sculpture of the Assyrians; and the dramatic Ishtar Gate created by the Babylonians as a ceremonial entrance to their city.Ancient EgyptThe extraordinary art and architecture of ancient Egypt makes this culture undoubtedly the most famous of those covered in this chapter. The high level of respect rulers commanded is exemplified by the pyramids at Giza and the Portrait of Queen Tiye. We focus on perhaps the most distinctive, and fascinating, area of Egyptian culture: its elaborate funerary rituals and the wealth of objects left as offerings in royal tombs. We end with a discussion of tomb painting, and what its richly detailed depictions of people, animals, and the river Nile can tell us about the ancient Egyptian world.Art of Ancient GreeceStudents learn that the ancient Greeks prized the gifts of the human body in both its physical and its intellectual capabilities. We refer to how this translated into their art and architecture, including their use of ideal mathematical proportions both to depict the human form and to design their temples. The Parthenon temple on the Acropolis of Athens is discussed in terms of its history, design, and function. The portrayal of idealized human-looking gods and heroes is discussed through sculpture on the Parthenon and Praxiteles’s Aphrodite of Knidos. Greek vase painting is considered, and students are taught the difference in techniques between the red-figure and black-figure styles.Etruscan ArtWe introduce the Etruscans and the value they placed on joy and celebration in both life and the afterlife through a study of paintings within the Tomb of the Leopards.Roman ArtWe explain how the Romans built the last great empire of the ancient world on their ability to conquer and assimilate other cultures. We explore the surviving monuments of this powerful civilization and its emperors. The influence of the Greeks on Roman art is considered. Roman statuary is used to explain the importance of ancestry. We discuss how the eruption at Pompeii preserved an incomparable wealth of vivid evidence of Roman home life, including the fresco paintings that decorated many of their villas. The imperial and political focus of much Roman art is considered through two famous monuments, the Pantheon and the Arch of Constantine.Chapter 3.2 Art of the Middle AgesThe Middle Ages encompasses the period in European history between the decline of the Roman empire and the rise of the Renaissance. This chapter begins with early Jewish art and continues through Christian and Islamic art to the height of the Gothic period and the early fourteenth century. During the Middle Ages, people from the three largest monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) often lived together in the same regions, at times harmoniously and at times in deadly conflict, fighting for supremacy.Art of Late Antiquity and Early ChristianitySome of the earliest surviving Jewish artworks—paintings from Dura Europos in modern Syria—are analysed, and we discuss their use of narrative. Students learn how early Christian art reworked pagan symbols, figures, and motifs before developing a distinct, varied, and elaborate visual language of its own.Byzantine ArtThe art of the Byzantine empire is explored through works created under the patronage of the Emperor Justinian I, including a discussion of Hagia Sophia. An icon depicting Christ, from the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, Egypt, and the magnificent figurative mosaics in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, are discussed in depth.Manuscripts and the Middle AgesThe painstaking process of creating decorated manuscripts is explained. Notable examples of different cultural traditions are presented: a Koran from the Islamic regions in Spain; the Lindisfarne Gospels, from Anglo-Saxon England; an Italian copy of the mystic and visionary Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias; and a painting from a Persian manuscript showing the ascension of Muhammad to heaven.Pilgrimage in the Middle AgesStudents learn about the great journeys that were undertaken by pilgrims in the Middle Ages (and that still take place today). We describe the grand works of architecture located at these sacred destinations, and the elaborate reliquaries that housed the holy relics that were the object of the pilgrims’ veneration. Jerusalem was important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as is exemplified by the history of the Dome of the Rock. Students also learn about Mecca, the most important pilgrimage site for Muslims, and The Prophet’s Mosque at Medina. Christian pilgrimage routes, and symbolic imagery, are discussed through a study of the church of Sainte-Foy in Conques, France. The design of Romanesque churches (including their floor plan and the significance of their orientation, and the importance of entrance portals) is discussed.The Rise of the GothicCathedrals increased dramatically in height and grandeur as a result of the architectural innovations of the Gothic period. The spectacular Gothic cathedral of Chartres is examined in terms of its design and engineering advancements, and the impact it made on worshipers.From the Gothic to Early Renaissance in ItalyWe introduce the important Italian Gothic painter Cimabue and his student, the early Renaissance artist Giotto. Through a comparison of their depictions of the Virgin and Child Enthroned, the great skill of each artist and their revolutionary contributions to painting are explained. The study of Giotto prepares the reader for the coverage of the Renaissance in chapter 3.6.
Watch the video above. The author, in explaining the innovative techniques being used to study Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, describes the notion of aura. What is your interpretation of this concept? What is it about a painting that would make someone want to travel halfway around the world to look at it, verses enjoying a reproduced image? Is there something specific that you want to see or experience in person? It doesn’t necessarily have to be art, but please explain why it is significant to you.